People from the Maritimes are known for their friendliness and hospitality. I was looking forward to riding through Atlantic Canada as I was entering the final stretch on my cycle across Canada. The people I met along the way lived up to their reputation – the hospitality was endless and I consider myself lucky to have passed through so many of their towns and homes.
It was on the road out of Riviere-du-Loup where I discovered the joy of the Trans Canada Trail. I knew this is where I wanted to be – some of the highways in New Brunswick are deadly – my little bike would not stand a chance with the big rigs thundering down the road! I was told that the section of the Trans Canada Highway that I was about to ride was amongst some of the deadliest roads in Canada! I had made it this far and had no intention of becoming a hood ornament now!
The Trans Canada Trail was nothing short of idyllic after a couple months sharing the road with all things motor (cars, trucks, caravans, tractors, motorcycles and the deafening roar of a pack of Harleys!!). The path was gravel dust and well maintained. Dotted all along were picnic tables and rest stops. I was told that winter was most popular for this stretch of trail as skidoo groups would use the trail – B&B’s and restaurants had created entrances from the trail to make for easy access. They seem to have thought of everything. At the end of the day, as if right on cue, I came to the campsite at St Jacques. To my delight, they even had a cyclists rate for camping. After all, when you come by bike, how much space do you really need?
Camaraderie amongst cyclists is great – the next morning at the campsite, I was given some great tips for the final leg of my trip including taking the ferry from St John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia, and back on the road to Halifax. Brilliant!
The adventure slowly drawing to a close, the autumn colours a sight to see, needless to say – I was overdue for another problem! The Trans Canada Trail had been a little too perfect! Turns out the vibration from the cycling for a day on the gravel dust brought severe numbness to my fingers. I must have pinched some nerves – I couldn’t feel anything on both my pinkie fingers! Not only that, a bolt had come loose on my bike rack – before long, the bolt gave way and I was left with a fully loaded rack rubbing on my wheel. Won’t be able to get too far with that! Drawing on the hospitality of the people, I knocked on the door of a house, or should I say, the only house on the stretch of road where the bolt broke. Thankfully – a spare screw was procured – a temporary fix to a pretty serious problem. There was no way for me to ride without some way of holding up that pannier rack!
The next task at hand – a more permanent solution! Thank goodness for automotive stores. After some good humoured laughter at my expense – yes, I understand this is an automotive shop and not a bike shop, and yes, I know that a car is faster….but can you still help me with a part! When I explained that I had started in Vancouver – the joking stopped – I think these grown men and truck drivers were stunned! In a moment, my bike was whisked away and repaired. No charge. They also insisted on giving me a few extra in case any of the other bolts blew! Most appreciative, I was ready to be on my way when I was invited to dinner! How could I refuse – one of the drivers was having dinner with his family and wanted me to share my adventures!
Once again, I was running out of daylight as I raced down the road in search of a campsite. I was back on the highway and not to happy about it! Too many trucks and traffic. I decided to once again ask for compassion from a hotel, and camp on their lawn. Being in the middle of no where with a giant expanse of grass, the front desk was only too happy to let me put up my tent. In a gesture of appreciation, the next morning, I splurged on a giant Sunday brunch. Very decadent to be sitting in the restaurant, reading the paper and chilling like it was what I had planned on doing!
I whizzed through New Brunswick, stopping the night in Fredricton and enjoying the jazz festival in the morning. Spent the night in Gagetown. They say that the mosquitos are bad in Northern Ontario – well – their bad ass relatives must have flown in to Gagetown for the weekend – I could barely put my tent up. Must have been quite the sight to see me try! It was no better the next morning – for the first time ever, I skipped breakfast – got loaded and out as fast as possible. Rode to the first country store to find that the weekend festivities had left their shelves bare! Starving and cranky, pedalling down the road became a battle of wills. I wanted to lie on the ground and get run over by a truck – but the mosquitos and black flies were so fierce – I couldn’t do it! It was a full 57 kms before I found something to eat.
Finally made it to the ferry terminal – the ferry crossing saved me. With bike neatly parked with the cars, I sat upstairs in a soft comfy chair and watched my first movie in months. I also learned of the greatest campsite, just up the road from the ferry terminal on the Digby side – for little more than a campsite, I could have a small cabin – there was only a bed and space for my bags, but it was a decadent treat, especially as the nights were getting quite cool. Some mornings, my tent would actually be wet from the dew. This meant that it was wet all day on the bike.
My cycling tour was quickly coming to an end. Hard to imagine that I had pedalled over 6,400kms through the summer. My route had been pretty direct and some of the days had been long. When I finally pedalled in to Halifax, the moment actually felt like a let down! It had been such a massive undertaking. People thought I would not do it. While I never doubted I would make it to the Atlantic, I knew there were times that it had more than challenged me both mentally and physically. There were tears, frustrations and times of boredom and loneliness. More importantly – there had been moments of joy and elation. People had been so kind to me – so many in fact, that I have not listed them all over this series! They welcomed me in to their homes and their lives, and I am so grateful. I hope they enjoyed meeting me as much as I did meeting them!
A friend of my father met me in a park in Halifax. We did the symbolic dipping of the tire in the water…and poof – the journey had come to an end. All that was left was to pack up the bike and fly back to Ottawa!
What can I say – it was a most incredible experience of personal growth and achievement! I am lucky to call Canada home, and proud to share my country with you. I hope you enjoyed reliving the adventure with me.